Before Reaching for Pesticides, Get to Know Beneficials – The Good Guys!

By Judi Di Bord, Master Gardener Volunteer

Did you know there is an alternative to controlling pests in your garden by using a pesticide?  Attracting beneficial insects, like lady beetles, green lacewings, praying mantis and dragonflies can help control insects that feed on your plants.  Beneficials don’t just help control pests. Some beneficials are also important pollinators! 

Ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) on an Common Yarrow's umbel (Achillea millefolium)
Ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) on an Common Yarrow’s umbel (Achillea millefolium). By Hélène Rival on Wikimedia Commons.

How can you attract beneficials to your garden?  One way is to purchase them at a local garden center and release them into your garden.  You can also attract them to your garden by growing plants to provide an enticing habitat for them.  If you are able to dedicate some space to growing these habitat plants, the rest of your garden can reap the rewards.

Following are some recommendations from the Penn State Extension Service:

  • Carrot Family (Apiaceae)  Plants in the carrot family are especially attractive to small parasitic wasps and flies. Interplant them in your vegetable garden and flower beds. Plants in this family include: caraway (Carum carvi); coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum); dill (Anethum graveolens); fennel (Foeniculum vulgare); Bishop’s flower (Ammi majus); Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota); and toothpick ammi (Ammi visnaga).
  • Aster Family (Asteraceae)  Attractive to larger predators such as lady beetles and soldier beetles. Incorporate into the vegetable garden and flower beds. Plants in this family include: blanketflower (Gaillardia spp.); coneflower (Echinacea spp.); coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.); cosmos (Cosmos spp.); golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria); goldenrod (Solidago spp.); signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia); sunflower (Helianthus spp.); tansy (Tanacetum vulgare); and yarrow (Achillea spp.).
  • Legumes (Fabaceae)  Generally grown as cover crops and attractive to many beneficials. Plants in this family include: alfalfa (Medicago sativa); fava bean (Vicia fava); hairy vetch (Vicia villosa); and sweet clover (Melilotus spp.).
  • Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)  Attractive to beneficials that are parasites and predators of the insect pests of the mustard family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens). Be sure to plant these away from the garden rather than in the garden since these plants attract pests as well as beneficials. Some are common weeds, such as yellow rocket and wild mustard. Plants in this family include: basket-of-gold alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis); mustards (Brassica spp.); sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima); yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris); and wild mustard (Brassica kaber).
  • Verbena Family (Verbenaceae)  Attractive to a variety of beneficial insects. Many plants in this family are favorite garden flowers. They include: lantana (Lantana camera); Buenos Aires verbena (Verbena bonariensis); hybrid verbena (Verbena x hybrida); and lilac vervain (Verbena rigida).

Beneficial insects also need a source of water. Shallow containers such as ceramic pot saucers with pebbles for the beneficials to rest on are best.

Suggested OSU Extension publications:

PNW550: Encouraging Beneficials in Your Garden

For kids:

EC1601: The Wildlife Garden: Dragonfly

EC1604: The Wildlife Garden: Lady Beetle

EC1605: The Wildlife Garden: Praying Mantis

Suggested websites:

National Pesticide Information Center, Beneficial Insects.

Penn State Extension, Attracting Beneficial Insects

Water quality and conservation in the garden

By Sean Fleming, Master Gardener Volunteer

Sean Fleming owns White Rabbit R&D LLC, a data science consulting firm specializing in artificial intelligence applications (www.facebook.com/westcoastdatascience).

He is also a courtesy professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and the Water Resources Graduate Program at Oregon State University.

His book, Where the River Flows: Scientific Reflections on Earth’s Waterways, gives an accessible introduction to the science of hydrology for a general, non-scientist audience and was just re-released in paperback by Princeton University Press.

He has given talks on water and rivers at the Smithsonian and at Science Pub events in Corvallis and Bend. Sean is a Benton County Master Gardener trainee, scheduled to graduate in the fall of 2019.

What are water quality and water conservation, and why do they matter?

Water conservation is using water efficiently, so less needs to be drawn from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers.  Water quality is about keeping pollutants out of all those major water sources, as well as smaller water bodies like backyard creeks and ponds. 

If we use water efficiently, your water bill is lower, there’s less need to build additional water supply infrastructure, and more water is left in lakes and rivers for the ecosystems that need it and for people to enjoy recreationally.  And for groundwater, it reduces the likelihood of drawing down your well to the point that you and your neighbors run out of water.  More broadly, lack of abundant clean water deeply affects not only fish, but also birds, mammals, forests, and beneficial insects – and of course people and pets.  We all live downstream, and someone else’s pollution can wind up coming out of your kitchen faucet.

How can gardeners contribute?

Gardeners interact with, and affect, the landscape and the water cycle more than many folks do.  Here are some important general steps you can take:

  • Use water-wise plants and natural landscaping.  Native plants are usually a good bet, because they generally don’t require irrigation.  Many non-native plants work too, if you pick the right ones.  Mulching and composting help by retaining water and decreasing evaporation.  Landscape design is important too – rain gardens are one example that helps water quality.
  • Water efficiently.  Providing gardens with more water than they need is wasteful and expensive, of course, but it also triggers erosion and runoff of sediment and chemicals.  It can even wash fertilizer out of the root zone of your crops.  Use drip irrigation or water plants directly instead of sprinklers where possible, and optimize your sprinkler system so it evenly distributes the right amount of water.  It usually gives you a better garden too!
  • Be judicious with your selection and use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other natural and non-natural chemicals.  Many of these things will wind up in natural water bodies.  Even overuse of organic fertilizers can be a huge water quality problem, contributing to algal blooms in lakes and oceans for example.
  • Be mindful of your non-gardening choices too.  Get rid of pharmaceuticals, paint, and other household chemicals by disposing them at the appropriate recycling and disposal center, for example, and use water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Does this really make a difference?

Yes!  These may seem like small things, and individually they are – but when you add them up across the whole country and over the years, they really add up.

In fact, water quality and conservation is, overall, an environmental success story.  Some estimates suggest that total national water use has remained at about 1970s levels due to efficiency improvements.  And in many industrial areas, water quality is much better now than it was a few decades ago.  The days of rivers literally catching fire – this actually happened to the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, which was polluted with flammable chemicals – are thankfully over. 

That said, there are major challenges looming, especially in the West, where a combination of relatively dry climate and tremendous population growth are severely pressuring our water resources, natural ecosystems, and water supply infrastructure.  Even here in Benton County with our soggy winters, the natural summer drought period requires careful water management, especially as the regional population and economy grow, increasing water demand.  Plus, more people generally means more pollution.  Each of us can do our part to mitigate those impacts going forward.

Credit: USGS

How does the water cycle work?

But how does your garden plot fit into the big scheme of things?  How can your choices contribute to – or contribute to solving – water conservation or quality problems?  The answer lies with the water cycle.

The world’s water is all connected in a big loop.  Water evaporates from crops, forests, lakes, seas, and oceans; it’s transported hundreds or thousands of miles in the atmosphere, through storm systems and the jet stream for example; it falls as rain or snow, contributing in turn to glaciers, groundwater aquifers, lakes, and ultimately rivers; and it then flows back to the ocean. 

Your garden is a step in that journey, and the water passing through kind of “remembers” what it saw there.  As rain falls on your vegetable patch, chemicals you’ve added will dissolve and then be transported as runoff, or downward to aquifers, and either way can wind up in a creek, which flows into a bigger stream, which joins with a big river, and so forth. 

Plus, withdrawals from rivers and reservoirs for water supplies, like watering your vegetable garden, collectively add up to a huge modification of that natural cycle.  The change is often destructive.  For example, dams on the Columbia River for water supplies, flood control, and hydropower generation have destroyed salmon migration patterns and habitat availability.  In extreme cases, like the Colorado River, so much water is taken out for human use that the river no longer makes it to the sea.

Practical information resources for gardeners

Here are some great places to look for information about specific things you can do to improve water quality and conservation in your own garden:

Master Gardener Mythbusting!

Are you curious about the Master Gardener volunteer program but not sure what to expect? Read on for Master Gardener mythbusting!

This story originally appeared in Growing.

herb garden grown in multi colored containers
Master Gardeners cultivate gardens of all shapes and sizes.

Myth: to be a Master Gardener volunteer you need to have a huge, perfect garden.

Fact: Master Gardener volunteers grow everything from balcony tomato plants to formal gardens to urban farmlets to tiny bonsai trees. They grow in community plots, containers on windowsills and home gardens.

Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to know all the answers.

Fact: Master Gardener volunteers learn how to research plant problems and where to seek well-researched solutions. Knowing what to look for and where to look is the key skill.

Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to have endless free time or be retired.

Fact: Working people, including parents and caregivers, are Master Gardener volunteers.  The 2020 in-person course offers increased flexibility. And the Master Gardeners online course offers a highly flexible program that connects you with your local community for volunteer service.

Myth: to be an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer you need to spend a lot of money.

Fact: OSU Extension and our non-profit Master Gardener association partners offer a limited number of partial scholarships. For information please contact Elizabeth Records.

You can help grow knowledge, gardens and communities. Applications for 2020 Volunteer Program open October 1st. Learn more and join us.

Sick plants? Get the most out of Master Gardener Plant Clinic!

By Elizabeth Records, Master Gardener Program Assistant

Previously published in Growing.
 

Three gardeners standing at info booth.
Master Gardeners are here to help at Pop up Plant Clinics in a location near you.

It’s gardening season! Whether you’re a longtime gardener or are new to growing things, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are here to help you grow your best garden yet and deal with garden challenges.

Master Gardeners are volunteers who complete a specialized training program and work as a team to help find solutions to garden problems for people in our community. We are from all walks of life and have widely varied gardening interests and experiences. Together we bring lifetimes of collective garden knowledge to solving plant problems with research-based information. Here are some scenarios where Master Gardener volunteers can help:

Plant Identification

You are digging in the garden and find an unfamiliar plant that you did not put there. Will it produce lovely flowers or tasty food? Or will it prove to be an invasive weed that takes over your garden? Master Gardener volunteers can help you find out. Bring a sample of your plant including a full branch or stem with any leaves, flowers and fruits that may be present.

Insect issues

You find a mystery insect in the garden and wonder if it is going to harm your plants or be a helpful pollinator or a useful predator of insect pests. A dozen insects appear in your garage, and you don’t know if they are a simple nuisance or are likely to feed on you, your pets or your home. Master Gardeners can help identify insects and suggest how to manage them! Bring the insect in a sealed jar, or a high resolution photo of the insect on a pale colored background, next to a ruler or coin so we can tell the size.

Gardening guidance

Just starting your first veggie garden and wondering when to plant, or what varieties do well in your location? Want to make your garden more sustainable by using less water, attracting more pollinators or using fewer chemicals? Short on space but excited to grow fresh herbs or salads on your windowsill? Whatever your gardening goals, Master Gardeners can help you find research-based information to get the most from your garden.

Diagnosis and recommendations          

Your previously healthy plant suddenly wilts. Brown spots appear in your grass. A tree that produced lots of fruit in the past stops setting fruit. Master Gardener volunteers can help figure out what is going on and decide what to do next for best results. Bring samples and/or photos that show the problem and also the surrounding area.

Get the most out of plant clinic
  • Be ready to answer questions that will help Master Gardeners hone in on the source of your problem so we can provide the best advice possible. Master Gardeners might ask, “how long has this problem been going on?” and “Are all of the similar plants affected, or just one?” “What treatments have already been attempted to remedy this situation?”
  • Bring good samples – you can always call us for suggestions to bring the most helpful samples.
  • Master Gardeners cannot answer questions about State or Federally controlled plants, identify mushrooms, or offer medical advice. We are pleased to assist with all your other garden questions to the best of our ability.
  • Sometimes we may need input from other team members or horticulture faculty to resolve your question. Be ready to share an email or phone number if we need to do some extra research and follow up.
  • Have fun and enjoy your garden, even when things don’t go as you expected!
Plant Clinics near you!

Find us at your local office most weekdays from 9-12 and 1-4. Email or leave a phone message anytime.

Benton County

  • 4077 SW Research Way, Corvallis, OR97333
  • Call with your question: (541) 766-6750
  • Email your question and any photos to: bentonmg@oregonstate.edu

Linn County

Do you have fruit trees? Tips on codling moth management from MG Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor has been a Benton County OSU Extension Master Gardener since 2015. When he’s not growing grapes and fruit, Alan puts his scientific background to use at the Master Gardener plant clinic by helping communities, teaching new volunteers and troubleshooting equipment.

If you have ever bitten into an apple and gotten a taste of a worm, there is a good chance it was the larva of a codling moth, a major pest of apples in the Pacific Northwest. Read on to see how Alan uses the data to get ahead of codling moths– and how you can, too!

biofix (plural biofixes)
(biology, pest management) A biological event or indicator of a developmental event, usually in the life of an insect pest, that initiates the beginning of growing-degree-day calculations.

Codling moth larva exiting fruit to pupate (Washington State University – E. Beers, July 2007)

For codling moth, this is the first date of consistent capture of adult moths in pheromone traps, and this year the consensus date for the mid-Valley biofix appears to be 29 April.

Now the fun part: CLICK HERE to visit the IPPC codling moth model (Brunner and Hoyt).

This link to the degree-day model gives a map to let the user select the weather station, and the correct biological model has already been selected. The user will need to enter the biofix date (I’ve been using 29 April) and then the calculations will give the appropriate dates for spraying.

For example, I clocked on a weather station in SW Corvallis, then entered 4/29 as starting date. This gives 20% hatch at 6 June and 50% hatch at 18 June. These two dates are the timing of the two sprays of insecticide for the first generation of codling moth.

Then I selected a site NW of Corvallis with an elevation of 780’, more representative of where I live (unfortunately no good sites both to the SW and at elevation are shown in the map), and the prediction is 20% hatch on 11 June and 50% hatch on 23 June. You can see the effect of a cooler location or microclimate. I have consistently noted that bloom and ripening of my fruit (apples, pears, grapes, etc.) is 7 – 10 later than that of friends down in Corvallis. Being at ~700’ and somewhat closer to the coast does make a difference, and I’ll be allowing for that in my sprays this year. Realistically, this is a conservative estimate, because I should also have a later biofix at my site, but I’ve chosen to ignore this. Last year, I used the timing for the Valley sites, and my apples were very clean.

Just to complicate things, not all insecticides remain effective for 12 days. I think spinosad, which I used, is supposed to be good for 10 days. Always compromises, so I used the model timing of the first spray, then waited 10 days for the second spray.

Finally, there are 2 and sometimes 3 generations of codling moth in the Valley. I’ll use the model to predict the spray timing for the second generation (we can cover that later), and I chose to ignore the potential 3rd generation last year. Four sprays is enough!

Read more about codling moths and how to manage them in the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook.

“Project Happy Apples: Reducing codling moth damage in backyard orchards” is a free webinar for Master gardeners and home orchardists alike. Watch it HERE.

 

Tips for Growing Caneberries from Master Gardener Sandy Nado

a person holds a double handfull of berries
There is nothing more delicious than a handful of homegrown berries. Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Raspberries, Blackberries, and their Hybrids

Raspberries, blackberries and their hybrids (boysenberries, tayberries, and loganberries) are members of the Rose family.  They are often called caneberries, as they produce berries on whip-like structures known as canes.

Caneberries have perennial roots but produce canes that live only two years. In their first year of growth the new canes are called primocanes; they produce leaves but not berries. In their second year of growth, the canes are call floricanes and will produce berries before they die in the fall. The first summer after planting there will be no berry harvest as all of the canes will be primocanes; the second year, a new set of primocanes will appear and the floricanes will produce berries.  With proper care, caneberries will produce crops for 15 to 20 years.

Tips for Growing Caneberries

Choose a site that is in full sun for best yield. The site should also have well-drained, fertile, loam soil. Blackberries are somewhat tolerant of heavy soils, but raspberries are sensitive to wet soils and if planted in heavy soil they may die from lack of oxygen in the soil or from root rot or other root diseases.

Avoid planting caneberries where potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, or other caneberries have grown in the last 3 years, as these crops may have been infected with the same insect pests and diseases that can damage caneberries.

Begin preparing the soil in the year before you plant by eliminating all perennial weeds and keeping remaining weeds from going to seed. Add organic matter to the soil in the summer or fall to improve soil aeration and drainage. Check soil pH about 6 months before you plant, and amend soil as needed. Raspberries require a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, blackberries between 5.5 and 7.

Select a cultivar. Caneberries come in a variety of cultivars which differ in growth habit and disease resistance, as well as color and flavor. Buy certified disease-free plants from a nursery for best results. Whenever possible, choose plants that are resistant to at least some pests and viruses.  For more information on cultivars that grow well in the Northwest, see:

Plant caneberries in the spring as early as you can work the soil. You will need to supply trellises for all cultivars of blackberries and for most raspberries. For detailed information on planting styles (hill vs. hedgerow) and trellising styles, see the publications at the bottom of this page.

Fertilize caneberries with a well-balanced fertilizer (such as 16-16-16) three times per year: early in the spring, and at one and two months later.

Water requirements for newly planted caneberries are ~1 inch per week from planting until late summer. Established plants will require 1 – 1½ inches per week from mid-June through late summer.  Drip or under-canopy sprinklers are recommended as they reduce the chance of disease in the crown and canes.

Manage weeds by cultivating no deeper than 1-2 inches to avoid damaging the caneberry’s roots. Mulch may also be used to control weeds.

Prune only the floricanes and any damaged canes after the plants stop producing berries in the fall.  See the publication(s) below for additional information about special pruning needs for plants with various growth habits.

Caneberries are sensitive to cold damage, heat damage, and a variety of insect and plant diseases. In general, blackberries are less susceptible than raspberries to these problems. See the publications below for more information.

Do you want to find more berry and fruit resources for your garden? CLICK HERE to check out this collection of resources from OSU Extension.

Sale Emphasizes Native and Pollinator Plants

Plants for sale lined up on tables in a barn.
Over 10,000 plants will be available at the Master Gardener Plant Sale.

For their May plant sale, Benton County Master Gardeners have emphasized growing native and pollinator-friendly plants. The sale, May 4 at the Benton Fairgrounds, includes well over 10,000 plants–vegetable and herb starts, perennials for sun and shade, trees, vines, and shrubs.

This year, the selection includes several thousand plants particularly favored by local pollinators—bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Over 80 varieties of native plants include those particularly important for local insects, such as several lupine varieties, blue gilia, goldenrod, and milkweed. Other natives include ferns, vine maples, and shrubs such as red-flowered currant, a particular favorite of hummingbirds.

Many other plants offered are blooming garden cultivars known to be good nectar and pollen sources.  These include many easy-to-grow perennials.  For example, bees and butterflies are particularly drawn to Echinacea, lavender, and catmint. They also favor popular shrubs such as lilac and spiraea.  Hummingbirds love bee balm, penstemon, salvias, and hardy fuchsias, often perching nearby to protect their favorite plants.

Help the local pollinators while you plant a beautiful garden at bargain prices. Master Gardeners will be on hand to help you choose what would grow well in your garden and give tips about how to be successful. All proceeds from the sale support Master Gardener educational projects in our schools, demonstration gardens, and community.

See you at the sale: 9:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, May 4, at the southwest corner of the Benton County Fairgrounds.

–Kathy Clark, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Excited about blue orchard mason bees? Check out Nurturing Mason Bees in Your Backyard in Western Oregon, a free publication from OSU Extension.

I grow things that remind me of my southern roots

Woman on a lawn tractor, smling
Susan Morton with her trusty lawn tractor.

Susan Morton brings the wit and wisdom of her career as a forensic scientist to her endeavors as a Master Gardener. Whether she’s playing the role of “Bee Czar” in organizing the Beevent Pollinator Conference, teaching new gardeners to grow produce on a budget in Seed to Supper, or serving on the board of the Linn County Master Gardener Association, Susan always shares a dry and delightful sense of humor. Susan has been a Linn County Master Gardener since 2011 and shared her story in winter, 2019.

A way for non-literate people to read nature

I grew up in the small town of West Point, Georgia, on the banks of the Chattahoochee River about 100 miles south of Atlanta. My father was an engineer, but he came from a long line of farmers and loved to garden. We had about half an acre of fruit and vegetables which we enjoyed all summer. His mother also lived with us and she, too, liked to work in the garden. I was their chief assistant. My job was picking, watering and keeping an eye out for pests. One of my fondest memories is sitting with my grandmother after I had been out picking shelling beans or peas for my mother to cook. My grandmother had very little education, but she knew how to plant by the signs. When I got older, I realized there was nothing magical or superstitious about these signs—they were a way for non-literate people to read nature to know when it was time to plant or harvest various crops. So, if you are in Georgia, plant your sweet corn when the wild dogwood is in full bloom.

A philodendron named Arthur

When I was deciding on a major in college, I was drawn to biology. I had to pick either botany or zoology and picked botany. I figured at least I would not have to chase my specimens. I attended a small women’s’ college which at the time had a very strict policy about students going out at night unescorted, with a male escort being much preferred. I had a philodendron named Arthur which my friends and I would list as an escort on our sign-out forms. And, of course, we took Arthur with us to theaters and concerts so as not to be dishonest. Arthur was cultured as well as cultivated.

In the early years of my career as a forensic scientist, I lived in apartments and could not do much gardening. I always managed to have at least a few house plants. Later on, I bought a small house with a large yard near the San Francisco airport. After years of deprivation, I gardened frantically.

When I put the house on the market, the real estate agent went through the house and made suggestions as to how to stage it. Then I took her to the back yard.  It was a wonderland. Didn’t have any trouble selling that house even in 2009 when the real estate market was in the dumpster.

Cluckingham Palace

As I neared retirement, I realized I had to do some introspection to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had never been big on introspection. Considering what bubbles up on its own, I was not keen on looking in there on purpose. But I did it. To my utter amazement I discovered that what would complete my happiness was chickens. CHICKENS. I decided to move out in the country so as not to have to deal with chicken laws. I came up to look at properties in this area.

After a couple of days of trudging through very gloomy places, I came to the place I am now. I got out of the car and fell in love. Lots of room to garden, but not too much land to take care of. Deer fence. But best of all was the view—over a waterfowl refuge pond with Mary’s Peak framed perfectly between trees. The real estate agent asked if I wanted to see the house inside. I just waved her off and said that if it had indoor plumbing, we were good.

So I got my chickens installed in their fancy coop dubbed Cluckingham Palace, and they give as much joy as I had hoped. After years of being cross-examined in court by lawyers, I find the chickens to be refreshingly noble and intelligent.

I grow some things that remind me of my southern roots. I have to have butter peas in the summer and turnip greens in the winter. I also have a sweetshrub, Calycanthus albus. They grow brown flowers that look like loafer tassels and smell like Jergens hand lotion. Actually, it is the other way around. Jergens Lotion is scented the shrub’s flowers. When I was growing up, everybody had a sweetshrub planted by their trash cans. Trash cans do not smell nice during August in Georgia. The shrubs were supposed to mask some of the aroma.

 Master Gardeners & Seed to Supper

As soon after I moved in as my life permitted, I became a Master Gardener and have made wonderful new friends. I find helping others to enjoy their gardens as much as I enjoy mine gives me great satisfaction.  I also like to think I am keeping pesticide use down by showing people better ways to manage their gardens. Seed to Supper is the type of program that is the reason I became a Master Gardener. Life has been good to me, and I want to give something back and to help those who have not been as fortunate as I have.

Postscript

Now I am supposed to tell something astonishing about myself. Well, I have already confessed that I dated a philodendron in college. Not sure what I can say to top that, but I will give it a try:

  • I have been to Antarctica, Pago Pago, Timbuktu, and Tbilisi, among many other unlikely places
  • I have driven a locomotive
  • I spent an afternoon appearing before the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria impersonating a barrister
  • I single-handedly destroyed communism in Russia by explaining to a Russian housewife the benefits of having shopkeepers competing for her rubles rather than getting a salary, paid out of her taxes, whether they sell anything or not. The Soviet Union fell two years later
  • I won a Russian speaking contest in St. Petersburg. No idea what I said since I do not speak Russian. I may be engaged to be married. In my defense, several vodka toasts had taken place before the contest.

Seed to Supper is a comprehensive six-week beginning gardening course that gives novice, adult gardeners the tools and confidence they need to successfully grow a portion of their own food on a limited budget. CLICK HERE to learn more.

A rose is my connection to my mother

Paula Lupcho in her garden on a sunny winter day in 2019.

Lifetime Master Gardener Paula Lupcho has served over 6,000 hours as a volunteer and was named Benton County Master Gardener of the Year in 2011. She has held many positions on the board of the Benton County Master Gardener Association  and has mentored numerous Master Gardener trainees. Paula shared her story in winter of 2019.

I am a native Californian and grew up in Newport Beach, California. Because we lived on an island in the harbor, I learned how to swim about the same time I learned how to walk. My dad had two passions—deep sea fishing and gardening. My sister got the fishing gene and I got the gardening gene. She hated gardening and I hated fishing that was helped along by persistent seasickness. My mother’s parents were also gardeners/farmers. They had fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetable beds.   It was a double dose of an inherited gardening imperative.

My earliest memories of gardening aren’t really memories but experiences that were captured in home movies. As a toddler, my sister and I were let loose into the yard with nothing but our undies when my father was out working in the garden. He grew great big tomatoes. We got to run, play, and get thoroughly dirty.   When he watered, we were thoroughly muddy. All was put right by a nice bath that Mom had waiting. I think that sunk into my own parenting mentality because I always thought my boys had a good day at school if the came home dirty.

Currently, my husband and I live in Benton County just west of Philomath. This is the second home we have built and the second garden that I have established from bare dirt.   We started work on the garden in 2008. The only plants on the property were native oaks and hawthorns, and conifers like Doug fir and Grand Fir from an old Christmas tree farm. It is amazing to me to see pictures of the house before it was finished with absolutely nothing in the ground. Today, pictures show a complete garden with fully mature trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. It took lots of hard work, but it is deeply rewarding to see it all come to fruition.

In each place that I have lived, I have been exposed to a wide variety of plants as in Southern California, which is a subtropical zone, to the Sierra Nevada alpine zone. The Pacific Northwest offered another huge palette of plants and most of them were unfamiliar to me. During my Master Gardener training, I was is a state of buzzing confusion as people rattled off names of PNW plants that I had never heard of. Over time, most of these plants now seem like old friends. But, wherever I live, I will always have at least 1 rose (with the exception of the Sierras). A rose is my connection to my mother, grandmother, and aunts. They all grew roses. It is one of my favorite memories of my grandmother’s home. Standard roses lined the front walk, and there was a large rose garden in the back. All of them were fragrant. I think Mr. Lincoln is my favorite. It has everything a rose should have; it is a gorgeous velvety red color and has the most wonderful fragrance. It’s perfect.

I suppose I am quite judgmental about plants. I have strong opinions about what a plant should or should not be. Shrubs and trees must have good shape and a strong silhouette—nothing floppy is allowed. Plants that are too exuberant and cause too much work to keep them in check are removed. No yellow or orange flowers are permitted—ever. Golden foliage is okay.   I love annuals. The riot of color that they add to the summer garden makes me happy. These rules have happened over time as I have matured as a gardener as I have found my gardening comfort zone.

Just after we moved to Oregon, I learned about the Master Gardener program. I attended one of the lunchtime lectures conducted by MG volunteers. It was the right time of year to submit an application to join the program. I was accepted and so lucky to be in a great class of trainees. Being a part of the gardening community was like finding my way home. I have loved every minute of being a Master Gardener. Giving back to the community through public service is the core of the program and is personally rewarding. But, I have gotten back so much more than I have given.   My real gardening education has happened over time as I continue to stay active and learn from fellow gardeners, most of whom are far better gardeners than I am. And, I have made lifelong friends along the way.

Do you share Paula’s enthusiasm for ornamentals? Find research-based resources for growing your best flowers, shrubs and trees with OSU Extension.

Barefoot gardener cherishes Albany childhood memories

Judi DeBord grew up in Albany Oregon. After some time away, she has returned to join her local OSU Extension Master Gardener program. She  gardens in neighborhoods where she spent girlhood days climbing street trees. Judi shared her story in November 2018.

A group of people gazes up at a large walnut tree in Albany Oregon.
Judi DeBord (in red) returns to a tree of her girlhood adventures as part of a Master Gardener educational tour.

My hometown is Albany, Oregon. I was born and raised here, and graduated from South Albany High School in a year that will remain unspecified.

One of my earliest memories of gardening are of a pussy willow bush that grew outside my bedroom window. Every spring, my friends and I would pick several branches of the fuzzy-ness and make things out of them. My mother had to deal with the fuzz floating everywhere for days. We grew tomatoes and had apple, pear and plum trees in the back yard. Summer and fall were busy with making apple sauce and making plum, pear and apple leather in the dehydrator. We enjoyed our fruits all winter long.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of climbing the beautiful, old trees in and around downtown Albany. My cousins lived “in town”, and when I spent the night at their house, we’d go off for most of the day, exploring. We climbed any tree we thought we could climb without getting caught or needing help to get back down! Sometimes it was a contest to see who would climb the highest. We also came to know every inch of Bryant Park, scouting for tadpoles, guppies, frogs or any other creature we could catch and fit into our cup or box. Of course, my aunt made us relinquish all captives before we came in the house, unless we managed to sneak into the basement before she saw us!

I grew up outside of town, with open fields all around our house. In mid-summer, the grass and scrub bushes grew taller than we were. We built forts in the grass, forged trails, rode bicycles, picked seed heads to wear, and played until my mother called to us and ordered us in for dinner.

One aspect of gardening I enjoy today is the smell and feel of good soil. I don’t know many people who garden barefoot as much as I do; maybe it’s from all those summers running around barefoot as a child. As soon as it seems warm enough outside, which for me is usually sometime in April, I’ll be out in the garden, with gloves on my hands but shoes on the sideline. Once in a while I’ll pay a small price – a splinter or thistle in my foot – but it always seems worth it.   Maybe someday I’ll invent a ‘tactile gardening sock’ for other barefoot gardeners like me.

Being a Master Gardener volunteer has been on my goal list for a long time. The Master Gardener program offers volunteers an opportunity to learn from nationally recognized experts from all around our state, which is just amazing. I’ve enjoyed volunteering many times before, mostly focusing on educational activities. Having access to resources to help others grow some of their own food, or grow beautiful ornamentals is fun and very fulfilling, even when things don’t go according to plan!

Join Master Gardeners in Linn County Oregon, or take a FREE short gardening class with us! Learn more HERE.